Laura Owens: Stepping into this exhibition is like being submerged in a creamy, gelato-colored world of extra-large canvases embedded with flora and fauna, a bio-network of whimsical monkeys, badgers, owls, flowers, trees, and little people. Yet it doesn't end there. This exhibition of 43 pieces is a monographic survey of 34-year-old Owens's work that follows her nascent yet rapidly ascending career through her playful tangents, progressions, and layered appropriations from 1997 to the present. Owens's inspirations are free-ranging, diverse, and humorous. She brings to the canvas American folk art, Chinese landscapes, children's illustrations, embroidery, flower-and-bird fabric motifs, and more. Nothing is off limits. She embraces the historically anonymous with the same fervor as the established. She is painting about painting. -- VM Through May 9. Museum of Contemporary Art, 770 NE 125th St., North Miami. 305-893-6211.
Love & Slavery in Miami: Willie Keddell is an artist who tills the fields of perception. The urban furrows of marginality are his seedbed of imagination. His work's soulful aesthetic is abundant with concrete decay, the graffiti of untrod spaces, and the plaintive lament of the dispossessed. With assistance from a crew of "at risk" teenage apprentices from the Troy Community Academy, Keddell has brought an artist's sensibility to the tangled history of two Miami landmarks -- the William English plantation slave house/Fort Dallas, and the Wagner homestead, now located in Lummus Park by the Miami River. "Love & Slavery in Miami" is a project exhibiting historical documentation and photography of the landmarks' pasts, as well as a performance piece based on the lives of the Wagner family. -- CSJ Ongoing. Tours every Thursday between 9:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m.; Saturdays by appointment. Lummus Park, 404 NW Second St. 305-638-7008 (Keddell at Troy Community Academy).
Micro.wave: Miscellaneous work, unconnected fragments, themes, and mediums. Is it art's apparent confusion (or beauty) as a reflection of life as we see it? Possibly, but Michelle Weinberg curates with an attitude. She deflects the hermeneutic role back to the observer. "Micro.wave" presents the work of a bunch of talented artists (mostly) from Miami and the result is one of the most engaging exhibits I've seen at Books & Books. The list of artists is too long to mention each of them, but their photos, drawings, installations, sculptures, and paintings are all nicely hung in a passageway connecting the children's book section and the patio. It is quite a narrow passageway, so be careful when you turn around to view the opposite wall. -- AT Through May 7. Books & Books, 265 Aragon Ave., Coral Gables. 305-442-4408.
New Paintings: Utilizing photography, magazines, and other source materials, painters have long employed overhead projectors to trace imagery onto canvas or paper for hyperreal impact. And although the images selected for this exhibition of Pedro Ruiz's work lack a unifying theme, their saving grace may be his attention to the application of paint and the brushwork, both of which he executes with skill. In the project room, Sarah Beddington's Goldspin, three looped videos transferred to DVD, isolate traces of common daily life in what appear to be restaurant and hotel settings. She treats the viewer to a meditative experience one might describe as yoga for the eyes. Curator Carolina Wonder's decision to drown out the sound in one of these videos works to heighten this effect. -- CSJ Through May 8. Casas Riegner Gallery, 25 NE 39th St. 305-573-8242.
Small Retrospective: In Buñuel's Viridiana, a hand crawls into the protagonist's chamber. It's not a dream. For the Cuban artist known as Gory (Rogelio López Marín), truth can accommodate magic, and his photographic images are impossible and bewildering. This art has craft and a sense of poetry. Gory's "Small Retrospective" is a show of works spanning two decades. See photos of horses running wildly in New York's streets, locomotives carrying weird mannequins on the sea, a priceless Picasso resting next to a fence in an abandoned parking lot, and doves witnessing our civilization. Gory employs a bit of pittura metafisica style, blended with technological gusto. Photographs and paintings often don't go together, as this show proves. -- AT Through May 8. Chelsea Gallery, 32 NE 39th St. 305-576-2950.